You do a lot of writing as an academic, and even more editing. That is a large part of your job: cranking out elegant sentences, combining them into tight paragraphs that tell a story, linking together these paragraphs into a longer essay form.
OK, so you’ve reached the end of a brilliant sentence, and you are about to begin the next one. How many of you type two spaces between sentences, and how many of you type just one space? Two-spacers, you go to the left of the screen, one-spacers, you go to the right. Yes, my right.
(Turning to the right): OK, you folks can go. There’s a great Joe Mathlete Explain’s Today’s Marmaduke you’ll want to see.
(Turning to the left): Two-spacers, follow me.
You don’t have to use two spaces to separate your sentences. You are forevermore free of this pernicious burden. One space will do. Why?
Years ago in the era of monospaced (e.g., Courier) type two spaces were typically used to separate sentences. It was particularly useful for full justification, when typesetters could create uniform columns by padding the already ample space between sentences. Someone even came up with the (albeit clever) rationalization that two-spaces between sentences allowed you to more easily tell where one sentence ended and the next one began.
As if periods didn’t already exist.
Nowadays, through modern technology, we have proportionally spaced fonts. Not only do they look much better, they save space, as I will demonstrate by typing 10 capital M’s and 10 lower-cased i’s
Nifty, huh? This allows words to take up only the space they deserve. On top of that, electronic typesetting with proportional fonts can be much cleverer about spacing in fully justified formats, by adding a skooch more space between words, not just at the end of sentences. So with proportional fonts there is even less need to add extra spaces between sentences as it now really breaks up the visual continuity of the paragraph. Don’t take my word for it. This text is written with one space between sentences:
and this text is written with two:
Kinda like the difference between looking at David Letterman
and Russel Crowe:
Furthermore, its not just about design. By applying the one-space method in your writing, spread over a lifetime’s typing, imagine how much time you’ll save thumbing the space bar.
h/t to Jacci at About: Desktop Publishing
Update 9:23CST 13Feb07: I was shocked to hear from Debby, of Drawing the Motmot, wondering why anybody would even think of typing two spaces between sentences. It is such communications that make me, frankly, despair of the rarefied world this academic must occupy. Coming soon…my rant about the world utilize. 😉 Stay tuned.
Update 8:27AM 16Feb07: Jerry in comments has detected the previous version of this post was rife with, wait for it, two spaces between sentences! Guilty, and corrected–it’s hard to break my thumbs of the double-twitch habit. Perhaps a support group…..